Kindness. Compassion. Fear. Anger. Hate. In the last four weeks, I’ve heard stories that have filled my heart with sheer joy and stories that have completely drained my soul. I ask myself over and over again, how I can be living in two completely different worlds at the exact same time. How is it even possible? It feels a little like an old school TV show, where the devil pops up on one shoulder to give permission to act poorly, and the angel then lands on the other shoulder to remind us that love will light the way.
But this reality isn’t a badly produced sitcom from 1985. It’s real life and it’s happening right in front of me every single day. The cast of characters ranging from Gargamel (the villain who threatened our beloved blue Smurfs) to Rose Nylund (the lovable, kind-hearted Golden Girl played by living legend Betty White). It’s happening in each and every neighborhood throughout the country, in grocery stores, and in hospitals. It’s a fact that this tale of good vs. evil is no longer just a fictional story we watch from the sidelines with a big bowl of popcorn. It’s a story we all get to tell first-hand. But how does the story end? Fortunately for every living being on this planet, the ending has yet to be written.
So how does the story end?
I don’t have the answer to how life plays out in the coming weeks, months and even years. I do know with absolute certainty that I want to remember the GOOD that came from this time.
When my mind begins to recall these days, I don’t want to remember the story of a shopper in the grocery who spit in my friend’s face simply for having the audacity to wear a mask in public. Instead, I’ll choose to tell the story of a woman in eastern North Carolina who depleted her extensive quilting supplies to make masks for her son (a Respiratory Therapist) and his colleagues who battled the virus on the front lines.
When I’m asked what it was like to live through a global pandemic, I’ll forget the tale of two grown men hoarding hand sanitizer just to turn around and price gouge their neighbors. Instead, I’ll tell the story of companies that instantaneously halted production of current products to make masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, and ventilators; reacting so quickly like they knew how to do it all along. I’ll talk about companies like Aunt Flow and Watershed Distillery who put their employees and their communities first.
In my mind, the images of people ignoring stay-at-home orders to attend “Corona Parties” may remain, but in the story I’ll speak of, the focus will be on the billions who sacrificed everything to stay home. I’ll tell stories of moms and dads who worked from their kitchen table, all while teaching their kids common core math and life lessons like how to do laundry and make a chocolate cake from scratch. I’ll talk about friends who gathered virtually for happy hours and game nights. I’ll remember the times I saw families taking walks together and brightening their neighborhoods with the simplicity of sidewalk chalk.
When I recount the headlines from 2020, I’ll block out the protesters carrying anti-semetic, homophobic, xenophobic, and racist banners on our statehouse steps. Instead I’ll remember a judicial system that pivoted to virtual hearings so children of all nationalities could be officially adopted to loving parents. I’ll remember leaders like Governor Mike DeWine and my own Congressman, Troy Balderson, who took my concerns seriously and did everything they could to help a simple small business owner like myself.
My heart will be happy when I tell stories of shelters that had no animals available because for the first time ever, they had all been adopted. I’ll tell stories of food pantries full of nourishment and volunteers lining up (six feet apart, of course) to help get it distributed. I’ll remember images of clear blue skies in cities like L.A. and Detroit. I’ll relish in the fact that wildlife returned to areas unseen in decades.
While I don’t have the answers to so many of my own questions, my overall hope is that I’m able to look at the positive changes, the incredible acts of generosity and selflessness, and the love that’s been on full display to emulate a new normal in my own life.
My hope is that our world will look at how it’s been operating, and learn from past mistakes. My hope is that while we are all rushing to get back to the life we once lived, that we stop and pause for a minute to really look at what we are rushing back to.
I hope we see communities, nations, and a world that begins to trust each other. I hope we see companies prove they care about people over profit. I hope we see manufacturers take responsibility for their role in protecting our delicate planet. I hope we see CEO’s focused on employee productivity vs. the hours they sit at a desk in a day. I hope we see families spending more time together. I hope we continue to stay connected even when we’re so far apart. I hope we learn to listen, really listen, to each other. I hope we finally set aside politics to do what’s right. I hope we stay creative and find new ways to solve life-long problems. But most all, I hope we stay kind. Because the story I tell of life in a global pandemic will be one of people symbolically coming together when we had to physically be apart. My hope is that the story ends with nothing but compassion and kindness that leads us all into a new normal.